Blog: A sticky issue for gum makers

Catherine Sleep | 18 January 2006

Pressure is mounting to make chewing gum manufacturers contribute to street cleaning. Twenty cities and towns in the UK this week clubbed together to take out a full-page advert in the Guardian newspaper to tackle the problem of chewing gum on pavements (that’ll be sidewalks to our North American readers). The coalition is demanding that the government and the chewing gum industry pay to help councils rid themselves of the problem.

A representative of Westminster Council pointed out how well off Wrigley is and said it was “time to make the polluters pay”. Interesting turn of phrase, “polluters”. I’m not saying the industry shouldn’t contribute, but let’s call a spade a spade. The polluter is not the manufacturer, any more than the brewer is to blame for people drink-driving. The polluter is the person who casually jettisons gum underfoot.

And persuading individuals to look after their own detritus is the difficult bit. Just yesterday I saw a teenaged girl casually chuck a confectionery bar wrapper on the ground. I was tempted to speak up but I judged it not unlikely that she would clock me one, so pathetically kept stumm. It was a wrapper from a Nutri-Grain bar, by the way. Does this mean we should ask Kellogg to stump up for street cleaning?

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